Putin says Guyana, Venezuela should settle ‘dispute’ through ‘political, diplomatic’ means

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In a recent telephone conversation with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Russian President Vladimir Putin advocated for “a settlement of the territorial dispute between Venezuela and Guyana through political and diplomatic means.” The discussion, held on December 21, 2023, touched upon several key areas of Russian-Venezuelan cooperation, including energy, trade, investment, and cultural and humanitarian efforts. Russia reaffirmed its support for Venezuela’s efforts to strengthen its national economy and sovereignty, a statement from the Kremlin noted.

The two leaders shared their views on various international issues, highlighting their agreement on creating a fair, multipolar world order and opposing unlawful sanctions and interference in state affairs. Maduro briefed Putin on his talks with the President of Guyana regarding the situation in Essequibo, a region at the heart of the longstanding controversy between the two South American nations.

The controversy revolves around the 1899 Arbitral Award which settled the border between the two nations. Venezuela accepted this as the final settlement at the time and even sent its technical officials to help demarcate the boundary that the Tribunal laid down. Then, suddenly in 1962, Venezuela claimed that the Award was null and void.

The matter was referred to the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) in 2018 by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres. This move is in keeping with terms outlined in the 1966 Geneva Agreement, a document established to resolve the controversy through dialogue. It was after decades of failed talks between the two sides, that the UN Secretary-General referred the matter to the World Court. 

The ICJ has ruled that it has jurisdiction to settle the controversy and has issued provisional measures instructing Venezuela not to exacerbate the situation, including through attempts to modify Guyana’s control of the territory. However, Venezuela’s plans to incorporate Essequibo as a new province have raised concerns about escalating tensions. Guyana has brought this issue to the attention of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), where decisions are binding for all members, including Venezuela. The role of Russia, a permanent member of the UNSC, could be pivotal in this context.

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